Diet is a 4-Letter Word

The psychology of eating

6 Tips for Losing Weight the Hormonally Balance Way

It's simpler than you think!

Last time we discussed the 7 signs your hormones are out of balance. This week we’ll begin the “what can I do about it?” part of our journey and we’ll discuss 6 things you can do today to help balance your hormones and lose weight.

1) Stop depriving yourself – You know how every time you diet, you want to eat everything in sight? There’s a reason for that. It’s called the Deprivation Effect and it goes like this: Decide you’re going to go on a diet and “be good” so you can lose the weight. Stop eating everything you love and severely restrict your caloric intake. Feel so deprived that you’d kill for a cookie. Finally give in and eat that [fill in your favorite food]. Figure “What the Hell? I already broke my diet; I might as well keep eating.” Eat everything in sight. Feel guilty. Start new diet, resolving to “diet better” next time. The problem is that every time you deprive yourself, you set yourself up for failure – you can’t help yourself. It’s not about lack of willpower. It’s about your hormones. So we’re going to put a stop to that. In the coming weeks, you’ll learn about Moderation instead of Deprivation. Satisfaction instead of Starvation. Weight Loss instead of Weight Gain. Sounds pretty good, huh?

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2) Only Eat When You’re Hungry – One of my earliest memories is of sitting in a baby pool eating an ice cream cone. Long before I knew D.I.E.T. was a four letter word or that I should look a certain way and hate my body. Before I had even heard the word “hormone,” let alone understood how my hormones impacted my body, I actually ate what I wanted and enjoyed my food. The funny thing is that’s not an uncommon experience for young children. When left to their own devices, most children do a great job of eating what they want when they want. Their habits change from day to day, as often as their likes and dislikes. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Over the course of a few days, they get their nutrition needs met without even trying. If we could just hold onto that innocence, life would be grand. But we don’t. Somewhere between ages 2 and 5, children begin to learn to ignore their own body’s signals. Instead of eating when they’re hungry and stopping when they’re full, they eat what they’re told to eat when they’re told to eat. Even if they’re not hungry or they don’t want it. It usually stems from well-meaning parents who are concerned about their children’s eating habits. The problem is that despite their good intentions, whatever they were hoping to accomplish backfired. Instead of creating a child with healthy habits, they created a sugar-addicted monster. All because they inadvertently taught their toddler to ignore his or her own body’s signals. The good news is: your body once knew what to do and it can re-learn it. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss how.

3) Never Go Hungry – The reason the Deprivation Effect occurs is that when we diet we either: 1) eat too few calories sending our bodies into starvation mode, or 2) eat processed foods that our bodies don’t recognize as food (more on that later). The result is the same: we’re hungry. All the time. We feel like an insatiable cookie monster. But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if you could go through the day without feeling famished? There again, it all comes back to your hormones. Once you know how to eat to balance your hormones, you’ll stop trying to starve yourself in a mislaid effort to lose weight.

4) Understand the Foods that Best Fuel Your Body – This is one of my favorite principles. Here’s the thing. There are 1000s of diet books out there—each one telling you that if you eat a certain way, you’ll lose weight. Maybe it even worked for your best friend. Or your boss. Or your husband. But then you tried it, and not only did you not lose any weight, you gained weight! How is that possible? Wasn’t it supposed to be a miracle diet that worked for everyone? After years of working with clients—along with my own food struggles—the most important lesson I have learned is this: no one eating plan works for everyone. There is no perfect diet. Some people do really well on vegan or vegetarian diets. Some do well on high protein diets. Some do well on gluten-free diets. We’re all different. There is no one plan that’s perfect for everyone. But in the coming weeks, I’ll teach you how to do an Eating Experiment so you can let what foods your body responds best to.

5) Trust in Your Ability to Make Healthy Food Choices – When people first come to my office, one of the first things we discuss is what they eat on a typical day. After getting past the excuses of “There is no typical day,” or “Well, I ate really bad this week, so can we pick another week?” what I get next never fails to surprise me. Women always, without fail, justify their eating habits to me. But their justifications widely differ. What strikes me every time I meet with a new client is how many diet myths are out there. Not only are most of them wrong, some of them are quite dangerous. We’ll discuss some of those myths in upcoming chapters. The point is that your body knows exactly what to eat and when to eat it – for health, happiness, and hormonal balance. You’ve just grown out of the habit of asking your body what it wants. We are going to re-plant that seed and nurture it until it blossoms. You do know what’s best for your body. And, in fact, you’re the only one who does. You just need a little retraining and to have a little faith.

6) Stop Dieting Right Now – How would you like to throw away your diet books? Sound too good to be true? It isn’t. D.I.E.T. is a four letter word and the reason you can’t lose weight has everything to do with your hormones. As a culture, we are so consumed with “losing weight” that we’ll jump on any diet bandwagon just for the sake of saying we tried it all and failed. Listing off the number and names of the different diet plans you’ve been on becomes a badge of honor for many women. But here’s the thing: We were never meant to live like this. Your body—your hormones, in fact—will fight back every time you try to diet, unless you learn how to read your body’s own signals and heed its wisdom. Aren’t you ready to take your life back? Next time, we’ll get started.

 

Mary E. Pritchard, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Boise State University.

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